As we prepare for yet another war in the Middle East, our president‘s performance as the leader of the U.S. military forces will undoubtedly come under scrutiny.
What makes a good commander-in-chief? It seems to me the required qualities are superior strategic and leadership skills during battle, along with accompanying diplomatic and political abilities to avoid senseless war. Here is a ranking of the best and worst commander-in-chiefs in U.S. history.
(1) Abraham Lincoln. With only minimal military experience in the Mexican War, Honest Abe‘s vision and will to win the Civil War far exceeded most of his commanding officers in the Union army. It is safe to assume that, without Lincoln, the Confederacy would have prevailed, our country split in two and slavery would have continued in the South.
(2) John Kennedy. Though his term was brief and has the Bay of Pigs fiasco on its record, JFK is ranked high because of his handling of the Cuban missile crises in 1962. The potential of nuclear war was averted as a result of Kennedy‘s tough, but quiet diplomacy. JFK might have saved millions of lives.
(3) George Bush Sr. The elder Bush and his administration did a magnificent job of forming an unlikely coalition of many countries through the United Nations in order to kick Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. Best of all, it was done with incredibly low causalities for the allies.
(4) Theodore Roosevelt. Teddy was vastly underrated as a commander-in-chief. At the beginning of the 20th century several nations including Germany threatened us with superior military might. Time and again, these potential adversaries backed off after dealing with the president. Why? Roosevelt‘s combative image helped reinforce his mantra to speak softly and carry a big stick.
(5) George Washington. Without the father of our country, there would be no United States. Washington willed a poorly equipped band of revolutionaries to a stunning victory over that era‘s reigning superpower - England. Washington is ranked this low only because most of his legendary exploits resulted before he became the official commander-in-chief of our country.
(39). Franklin Roosevelt. When we were finally attacked by Japan, the U.S. was ill-prepared for war.
(40) Nixon. Richard Nixon‘s continuation of the Vietnam War and underestimation of our adversaries cost tens of thousands of American lives.
(41) Johnson. His Vietnam War legacy is worse than Nixon‘s because Lyndon Johnson realized early in his term that winning such a war was futile.
(42) William McKinley. Groundless newspaper sensationalism convinced this spineless president to stumble into the Spanish-American War.
(43) Truman. A butcher. Harry Truman could have overseen the conclusion of World War II and the Korean War with far less loss of life. As commander-in-chief, Truman ranks at the bottom of any list of U.S. presidents.
(Incomplete) - George W. Bush. The report card is still out on our current president though he is off to a very shaky start. He did squash puny Afghanistan, but our main target, Osama bin Laden, slipped out of the country. Six months ago, Bush demanded that Ariel Sharon remove Israeli troops from the West Bank region. Sharon refused and Israeli troops are still there, today. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il has defied the U.S. by kicking weapons inspectors out of the country, firing up nuclear plants, and threatening to use his weapons of mass destruction against his enemies (most everyone else on the planet).
There is little time to focus on the imposing threats of bin Laden, Israel/Palestine, and North Korea because of our current commander-in-chief‘s obsession with the contained and relatively defenseless Iraq. Only history can show the wisdom of this strategy and provide the final rating for George W. Bush.